Saturday, January 16, 2016

Comparing Aglianico and Nebbiolo

Earlier this month our Italian Food, Wine & Travel group (#ItalianFWT) featured the region of the Basilicata. In writing about the most popular grape of the region, aglianico, it brought about the question on how does aglianico of the south compare to nebbiolo of the north.

Nebbiolo is a grape most known for producing some of the top wines of Italy, barolo and barbaresco. Nebbiolo is found primarily in the region Piedmont, but is also found in Lombardy in the Valtellina winegrowing area, as well as the Valle d'Aosta. You can read more about nebbiolo and some of the differences between barolo and barbaresco to get a better understanding regarding these two wines and some more traits of the grape itself.
Nebbiolo grapes growing in Barbaresco
Nebbiolo growing in Barbaresco

Aglianico is a grape that is primarily found in the regions of Campania, mostly around Mount Vesuvius and in the Basilicata region, mostly found in the Monte Vulture area. As you'll see it shines when grown in volcanic soil and is what makes the wine special. You'll find further detail about the aglianico grape on my recent article.
Mt. Vesuvius over Pompeii
Mt. Vesuvius over Pompeii

Aglianico has been called the “barolo of the south” and yes, it does have some similarities to nebbiolo in the north, but aglianico is a grape that has enough differences to be recognized on its own as it should be.

Similarities of Aglianico and Nebbiolo
There are many similarities between these two grapes from two different spectrums of Italy. To start off they are both late ripening grapes that produce wines with high tannins and acid. Obviously each cru site, or single vineyard site, where these wines are grown have their own characteristics, but they're typically dense, complex, rich and concentrated wines. These are the types of wine that can be aged for 10-30 years or more depending on the producer. They usually will benefit from some decanting and need time in the bottle to be more approachable and to mature.

Differences of Aglianico and Nebbiolo
I believe that aglianico is a grape that is more approachable in its youth. You can find some wines from La Morra for example that are more approachable in their youth, but we're talking the overall general picture. These grapes also have different aging requirements when comparing the DOCG's of Basilicata and Barolo and Barbaresco. The Aglianico del Vulture Superiore of Basilicata requires 2 years of aging for the regular red and 4 years for the riserva. In comparison, Barbaresco is more closely related with it's aging period of 26 months for it's red and 50 for it's riserva. Barolo is higher requiring 38 months for it's red and 62 months for it's riserva. Lastly, you can find more affordable aglianico wines than you will find in Barolo and Barbaresco, but there are plenty of other nebbiolo wines from the other regions I mentioned as well as others grown within Piedmont outside of Barolo and Barbaresco.

What are your thoughts on these two grapes and do you have a preference? I'd love to hear from you.